Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Red Box

Day 219
“What’s this?”  My mom is visiting from Chicago for the weekend and the boys and I drag her to the store to include her in today’s fun. 

“Red Box?  Think Blockbuster but at your grocery store,” I explain as I point to the large red kiosk.  “You pick out a movie on the computer screen, pay with your credit card and the movie pops out.”  I’ve never used Red Box but I think the idea is pure genius.  I only wish I’d thought of it first.   

We find the snack aisle and pick our poison.  “Popcorn or candy?”  The question isn’t out before the boys answer.  In unison. 

Milk Duds in hand, we spy walk our way back to the Red Box and nonchalantly prop the chocolates on the thing you swipe your card through to pay. 

I can’t take credit for today’s random act.  My friend Jamie sent a link when she saw the idea on the Red Box facebook page.  Jamie, this one’s for you!

We tape a note, “Enjoy your movie!” and hurry home to enjoy our own Saturday night movie. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

Flower Power

Day 218
When I was little, I loved bringing daffodils from my mom’s garden to my teacher.  With stems wrapped in wet paper towels and covered in tin foil, I’d proudly present my gift to much ooh-ing and ahh-ing. 

The heat and rain of the last few weeks has done wonders for my garden.  My butterfly garden sings with color.  My hydrangeas hang heavy with blooms. 

“Who wants to bring flowers to his teacher?”  I ask. 

The boys stare at me blankly.

“Why?” A. asks. 

“Because your teacher might like them?  As a surprise?” 

He considers this then shakes his head no. 

“F?  How about you?” Then I remember how he used the last bouquet to duel on the bus.  I still chuckle when I think of his teacher’s bewildered face as she graciously accepted his bouquet of twigs.

“How about you?” I ask my oldest.  He’s my empathetic, sweet one.  Or he used to be until he started third grade.  These days he’s less sweet more snot. 

“No way,” he says.  “Flowers aren’t cool.”  I can’t understand this statement.  My husband brings me flowers all the time for no reason.  That’s about the coolest thing in the world. 

“No one?  No takers?” 

If today’s random act of kindness were a flower, it died on the vine. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Popsicle Party

Day 217
A. knows what he wants to bring for soccer snacks and there’s no persuading him otherwise. 

“Popsicles,” he says. 

I fight the urge to tell him that a box of granola bars will be easier.  In his league, the snacks rank higher than the actual game.  Don’t trifle with snacks.   

How much harder can popsicles be?  A lot it turns out when you can’t find the top to the cooler and the bag of ice freezes in one solid block. 

As Chaz searches the garage for the cooler top, I heave the bag of ice against the concrete garage floor to break up the chunks into manageable pieces.  The plastic bag explodes on impact and sends ice flying.  Lucky for us the clutter of boxes and yard tools act as a barrier and most of the ice ricochets back toward my feet.  I scoop up the cleaner pieces and line the bottom of the igloo, add a layer of popsicles and top off the frozen, if slightly dirty, parfait with another layer of ice. 

I bend down to pick up the cooler.  My brain knows what to do but somehow misfires the message to my arms.  Nothing.  I try again and ungracefully drag-carry the cooler to the car. 

“Need some help?” a dad asks watching me struggle at the soccer field. 

“I’m good.  Just a few more steps,” I grunt. 

I drop the cooler on the sidelines and collapse onto it.  The hard plastic provides a solid, if not comfortable, seat to watch the game.

A. must know it’s his final game and been saving his best moves for last.  He attacks the ball, stays in the action and nearly scores his first goal.  By halftime, sweat plasters his hair to his forehead and his face and cheeks are flush from running.   

All the kids look like A. after an hour of running in 90-degree weather. My son is right.  This is the best choice.  Kids know what kids like.  A.’s teammates stretch out their hands for the popsicles after the game.

With a dozen left, I tell A. to start passing out the rest.  “Any kid you see,” I tell him.  “Go find anyone who looks like they might like one.”  It’s not a hard sell. 

I dump the ice and lift the now feather-light cooler.  All around us kids lick multi-colored popsicles in the sunshine.  

Old Fashioned Goodness

Day 216
I’ve tried unsuccessfully to recreate my husband’s grandmother’s chocolate pie.  According to him, she made the best chocolate pie in the entire state of Iowa.  I’ve followed her recipe…to the letter…and he swears it’s not the same. 

To be fair, I can’t taste the difference.  I’ve had hers.  I’ve had mine (with her recipe).  Same.  The only difference is mine isn’t wrapped in the memories of his grandmother.  That I can’t replicate. 

In my little baking business, sometimes people call and ask if I can bake something using their Great-Great Aunt Tootie’s recipe.  I love the idea of honoring a relative with their own food but worry the cake won’t stand up to the test.  However closely I follow Tootie’s instructions, I’m not Tootie.  That essential ingredient of her will be missing. 

There’s something about food that brings us back: to childhood, to sitting around your grandmother’s kitchen table, to summer camp.  The smells and tastes are ingrained in our memory as vividly as any photograph.

This week, I baked a delicious lemon pound cake for a client using her mother’s recipe.  It had the thick density of old fashioned goodness.  Since a friend and I are putting together a small reception for some area seniors who will come to watch the Fourth Grade music program, I make the same thing.  It feels like the right choice. 


Day 215
My baking business (or what my husband refers to as “my hobby that’s gotten out-of-hand”) continues to grow.  This week, I began teaching cookie decorating classes to seniors through an agency called Creative Aging. 

To prepare for the class, I bake several dozen spring-themed cookies.  I stack the still warm from the oven flowers, beehives and butterflies into plastic containers and hit the road.  I’ve got a half-hour’s drive and don’t want to be late. 

A grandmother answering phones at the center’s front desk directs me to a large, open room with 6-foot folding tables.  I place a dozen paper plates around the table and top each with six cookies.  I line the colored icings down the center of the table and space glass ramekins of toothpicks around the table within easy reach. 

“I want to share a few easy tricks,” I start.  Seven heads nod in agreement.    

“Don’t let Martha Stewert fool you,” I continue.  “You don’t need fancy smancy supplies to make gorgeous cookies.  I use clean ketchup bottles bought at the dollar store and toothpicks.  High tech, right?” 

They titter and nod.    

“What if we make a mistake?” one lady asks. 

“We eat all mistakes and destroy all evidence,” I immediately answer. 

“I like that,” one laughs.  To prove she’s on board, another sneaks a taste of icing that’s dropped on her paper plate. 

The ladies and I talk and decorate cookies for over an hour.  Each time I demonstrate a technique I place the cookie on a platter in the center of the table.  Several of the ladies share with me that they’ll be traveling to New York City on a tour the following week. 

“We’re going to see TWO Broadway shows!” one says.  The class shifts from cookie decorating to a lovely hour with friends.  The ladies laugh and nibble and laugh some more.  They invite me back to teach them cupcake decorating with their grandchildren.      

“I liked that,” says a woman to me as I pack up my supplies to leave.  “But my eyes aren’t what they used to be.”  I nod.  “But I am 96,” she says in a conspiratorial whisper. 

“96!” I yelp before she shushes me.  Can you imagine?  I hope I still have teeth to eat cookies at 96 let alone decorate them.

I grab the platter of cookie from the center of the table.  When the 96-year-old and I walk towards the front door, I gently place them on the desk of the grandmother who showed me to the room earlier.   

The two of us walk out together.  “Have a great time in New York!” I say.  I turn left and she walks right before getting into her car and driving away.  Yes, she drives, too. 

Monday, May 21, 2012


Day 214
Checking out at IKEA, the automatic kiosk asks if I’d like to donate a tree for one dollar.  That seems like a bargain-basement price to help save make the Earth a greener place.  I think the Lorax would approve.  Done.  

Two Minutes: We Timed It

Day 213
I don’t often shop at Walmart.  Today I’m glad I did.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have known about a new partnership between the superstore giant and General Mills.  Together, they hope to donate 15 million meals to food banks nationwide.   

On participating General Mills brands (including cereal, granola bars and side dishes), there’s a computer barcode you can type in to secure seven meals for your local food bank.  In Cincinnati, GM meals will be delivered to the Free Store in Over-the-Rhine.

It took less than two minutes (the boys and I timed it) to log in and enter our codes and send 21 meals to an empty pantry shelf and someone's empty stomach.  Isn't it funny how logging in filled us up?    

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Stamp Out Hunger

Day 212
Each year, the US Postal Service collects non-perishable foods as part of its Stamp Out Hunger campaign. It’s got to be one of the easiest ways to give food to a local food bank.  The mail carrier picks it up on his route and the post office delivers it directly to the food pantry’s door.

Last year, we had the best of intentions but dropped the ball.  We forgot.  Completely.  Not this year. 

The boys and I bag up some cans of food, tie up the bag and tape the postcard to it so there’s no confusion. A. happily pulls out his nemesis, corn, to donate.  “Eww, those too!” says F, adding a can of sliced carrots.  What does it say about us that we give away all the “choice” cans?  Someone’s trash is another’s treasure?  Or in this case, dinner.   

It surprises me in a country as wealthy as America that more than 16 million children are at risk of hunger.  That’s more than 1 in 5.  The idea of hunger is a hard concept to grasp for children who’ve never missed a meal.  To F., snaking might as well be an Olympic sport.  He’s that good. 

Then there’s all the food we don’t eat.     

The boys wasting food pushes all my husband’s hot buttons.  He hasn’t gone as far as lecturing them about “all the starving children in Africa” but he’s come close. I find uneaten cheese sticks in lunches, untouched packs of crackers tucked into backpacks and half-finished glasses of milk at the kitchen table. He’s got a point.  We toss enough food in our house in one week to feed an entire other family. 

As we approach summer, I can’t help but think of all the kids who qualify for free lunches at school.  Where will their next meal come in June, July and August?  Drats.  We should have put out more cans of carrots.  

Love Flash Mob

Day 211 
There’s a great blog I read regularly called Momastery.  Written by talented writer Glennon Melton, it’s a fun romp through motherhood with a heavy dose of humanity and humility thrown in.  It’s also a blog with a cause and you all know I’m a sucker for one of those.   

Part of her blog focuses on how Monkees (blog followers) can help each other.  As part of Monkee See Monkee Do, Melton encourages readers to send an email and share their story of someone in need.  The Monkees then ban together and see what they can do as a collective group to help. 

Help takes many shapes: healing thoughts, prayers, kind words or monetary donations.    

Today, Momastery hosts its first ever online love flash mob with a goal to raise $85,000.  No, that’s not a typo.  Eighty-five THOUSAND dollars.  There’s a catch.  No one can donate more than $25.  The point of the flash mob is that if everyone does a little the outcome will be great.  TOGETHER we can do amazing things. 

The money will go to purchase new, top-of-the-line mini vans equipped to meet the medical and family needs of two Monkees: Claudia, a single mom diagnosed with ALS, who is raising three children with Fragile X syndrome.  She currently lives with her youngest son who has autism and his caretaker. 

The second Monkee Mindy, a mother of four, has stage 4 lung, bone and liver cancer.  With sky-high medical bills, she and her husband Paul can’t get their car out of the shop. 

Something about their stories compelled me to hit the donate button.  Maybe it’s the shared sisterhood of motherhood, maybe it’s a deep thankfulness that it’s not me with these terrible afflications: whatever it is, I join the flash mob.  I do my small part along with other Monkees across cyberspace. 

* In 51 hours, the love flash mob raised $82,874.93 with no one donor giving more than $25.  That’s a lot of hand-waving, flash-mobbing, loving.  

Friday, May 18, 2012

Language Barrier Broken

Day 210
Sometimes I’m a little slow. 

The first time I met my neighbor’s father, I brattled on incessantly and misread his blank stares as a desire for me to elaborate and not that he didn’t understand ONE WORD of English. 

Now when we see each other, we wave and keep moving.  Or he does.  I try not to take it personally.  I imagine a Chinese version of myself talking to me and I understand. 

When he sees me working in the yard, he makes his usual wide arc, waves and keeps on moving. 

I’ve been working for several hours in the garden.  Sadly, it’s all been in the same small patch.  There’s dirt in my hair, underneath my fingernails and between my toes.  My back, shoulders and legs ache.  Are you getting the picture?  I’m one hot mess.

I sit back on my heels to admire the bed.  It looks good.  Now where is Chaz when I need someone to admire my handiwork?  I head into the house to track him down.  Just a little, “Wow!  Great job!” or “I can tell you’ve been working hard” will do the trick. 

I knock on his office door and twist the knob.  He holds up a finger to indicate he’s on a call.  Just a minute, his finger says. I mime digging then slump over and grab my lower back.  I pop up like a spring and spread my arms wide.  I hope he gets my sunflower improv. 

Instead he turns his chair and faces his monitor, responding to a question on the call with some data he’s called up on his computer. 

OK, I mouth to his back.  I’ll be upstairs when you get a minute.  In the garden, I add. 

Thirty minutes later I’ve given up waiting on my personal cheerleader.  Apparently he has work to do.  Whatever. 

That’s when Mr. Xiao comes into my field of vision.  He points at my garden and gives me not one, but two, thumbs up.  Everyone speaks thumbs up.  He’s broken the language barrier with one simple gesture.  I smile and flip up my thumbs in response.  Thank you, I think.  Thank you.    

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Give 'Em A Boost

Day 209
“My husband’s not going to be happy to not have a booster,” a lacrosse mom says to me as she packs up her daughter to head out.  Her and her husband are doing the swap.  With three boys who play three different sports, it’s a move my husband and I have perfected this spring.  

A booster seat lifts a child in a seat so that a shoulder and lap belt restrain them properly.  Ohio law requires all kids under age eight (or under 4’9”) be secured in a booster seat while riding in a moving vehicle.

“You could leave it with me,” I offer. 

She considers this.  “You don’t mind?” 

“I’ll be sitting over there,” I point to a bench smack between F.’s practice field and the playground where A. is climbing up a slide.  I plan to swivel my head between the two for the next hour.   
Chaz sends a text telling me Mason cancelled I.’s baseball game and they’ll join us soon.  All of us in the same place on a weekday is an unexpected surprise.  I text back where I am.   

“Nice seat,” he says when he strolls up.  I swear that man can make anything dirty. 

“I’m holding it for someone,” I answer sweetly. 


“I don’t know,” I admit.  Chaz’ face twists in confusion but he doesn’t ask.  “I’m hoping he finds me.” 

It’s a reasonable assumption.  I’m the only one sitting on a bench with a bright orange booster seat.  Just then, a well-dressed man straight out of the boardroom walks across the track towards me.  I stand as he approaches. 

“Looking for one of these?” I smile and pass him the car seat. 

He takes it and we stand and talk for a minute. 

The whistle blows the ends practice and the boys tear across the field towards waiting parents.  His son runs past him towards the parking lot eager to get home.  The man waves thanks and turns in hot pursuit, the soles of his polished leather shoes splashing in the muddy field.   

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Kindness Grows

Day 208
A friend kindly shares her garden with me today.  “Take whatever you want,” she says, giving me a tour of her extensive perennial gardens.  One runs the length of her side yard, another takes up a large piece of real estate near the patio.  Clumps of flowers dot the backyard in happy polka dots of color. 

For flower lovers, it’s a piece of heaven.  For my friend and her fiancĂ©, it’s one more thing to dig up before they begin construction this fall.

“Are you sure?” I ask, hoping that my drool doesn’t drip and stain the front of my shirt. 

“Yes, we’re going to dig it all up anyway.” 

Gazing at her garden, I’m transplanting the flowers and shrubs in my mind.  I’ll plant a few to my front beds, line the back fence with a half dozen clumps of sunny daisies, and start the transformation from weed patch to hosta garden along the back property line. 

Back home and covered in dirt, I survey my new backyard space.  It looks the best it’s looked since we moved in six years ago thanks largely to my friend’s perennials.  

What else?  What else?  I’m on a mission and don’t want to stop the momentum.  In the back, a bright spot of yellow pops from a bed.  I’ve always meant to divide these irises but haven’t.  Instead, I’ve let them multiply until they’ve spread to a space nearly the size of a twin mattress.  Today I do.  

I send out a quick email and in minutes have several takers.  I dig out the irises and deliver them to their new homes. 

It’s only right.  One good turn deserves another. 

See how kindness grows? 

Blog as Chore?

Day 207
A friend asks today if writing the blog ever feels like a chore.  “Not usually,” I answer, “unless I get behind.”  I say this knowing I have several unwritten entries to piece together from a handful of half-coherent notes.

I jot down things every day to remember the details with the hope that I’ll write in the evenings after the boys and I read together and everyone’s tucked into bed.  But, as we all know, life has a funny way of driving the train off the tracks.

These spring days full of lacrosse and baseball, soccer practice and after-school play dates, I find myself looking at the clock wondering how could it possibly be dinnertime.  And what in the world are we eating since I didn’t make it to the store? 

Life is busy.  Plans change.  We figure it out. 

But the blog is never a chore.  It’s been a learning experience for the boys and I, a way that pushes us how to think and act differently. It’s a reminder to do the right thing when the wrong thing might be easier. It’s been an opportunity for us to stretch to become the people we want to be.    

How could something this fun ever be considered work?  

Sunday, May 13, 2012

One More Thing...

Day 206
I know you’re done it.  You think you’re finished and then find or think of one more thing, or a dozen. 

I have this problem a lot at Christmas.  I start with a reasonable list of toys and fun surprises I think the boys might like.  I buy them, take them hope to wrap and spend the next several days congratulating myself on being done with holiday shopping before midnight on the 24th.   

Until I find something else that I think they’ll love and something else and something else.  On Christmas, to the kids’ delight and my horror, it looks like Santa’s workshop exploded in our living room.

You’d think I’d learn my lesson.  Keep it simple.  Stick to the basics.  Less is more. 

I haven’t. 

This time it’s the butterfly garden I’m planting at school.  I can't explain why I'm on Etsy looking for one last thing when by all accounts I should check this project as done on my growing to-do list.    

What’s Etsy?   Buckle up, Girlfriend, you’re in for a ride.   

Etsy’s an online shopping experience of handcrafted clothing, jewelry and more.  If you’re looking for something everyone won’t have, look there.  I type in “butterfly garden” with no expectations and up pops this:

The cedar sign has hand-routed letters painted in Tiffany blue. Perfect, right? 

Santa would approve.   


Friday, May 11, 2012

Me Man. Me No Need Sunscreen.

Day 205
“Can I borrow some of that?”  The request comes from a mom behind us on a green plaid blanket.  We’re all sitting in the blazing sun watching the Tigers play ball.  We’re settled in for the long haul and are taking necessary precautions: sun hats, umbrellas and sunscreen.   

Games run two hours.  Let me be clear.  The ref calls the game at two hours.  Little League baseball isn’t for those afraid of commitment.  

“I can’t promise if it’s any good, but you’re welcome to it,” I say, passing the sunscreen back to the woman.  “It’s from last summer.”  My husband brushes off my attempt to apply sunscreen to him.  Grunt.  Grunt.  Me man.  Me no need sunscreen.   

“I just don’t like my forehead and nose to get crunchy,” she says, applying the SPF. 

I’m with you, girlfriend.  With every birthday, I embrace a new moisturizer and/or sunscreen that promises to “protect my youthful appearance.”  Proctor and Gamble, you had me at “anti-aging.” 

Two hours later, we’re all a little crunchy, despite the sunscreen.

Game over, I reach for my husband’s hand and run my recently non-nibbled nails across it.  “Oh,” he cries, “a little sunburn, here.”  I think it’s exceptionally kind to not remind him that this new invention, sunscreen, helps with that.     

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Quickie Quarter

Day 204
Kindergarten orientation means A. gets to enjoy an unexpected day o’ fun.  Each time he talks about today’s plans he adds another thing to the list.  Mini golf.  Chuck E. Cheese.  The Cone.  The library. 

The Cone is an area favorite, a seasonal ice cream shop fashioned in the shape of a soft serve cone.  It’s got lots of what a friend calls “whippy dippy” selections: a dozen flavors of soft serve, a dozen choices to dip.   

Several ride-on toys beckon the kids to finish up quickly because there’s more fun this way.  For a quarter, a child can transport himself to the moon or be Superman’s sidekick in a souped up speedster. 

A few more years and A. won’t be able to ride these anymore.  Watching him today, I realize how much he’s sprouted since last summer.  He squeezes his body into one and tosses his arm around a child-sized worm before the apple starts to shake.

“Next stop, Monster Mini Golf!” I say to motivate A. to wrap it up.  I walk over to the worm and place a quarter on the dashboard next to the start button.  I want it to be somewhere a child will find it. 

A. smiles his approval.  “Maybe that kid will find it,” he says as we pass a little boy on the way to the ride.  “Or him!”

“Sometimes it’s better not to know,” says Grandpa who after yesterday’s all-school work day has earned himself his own day o’ fun. 

“A., what would you do if you found it?” I ask.   

He pops his eyes wide and his mouth forms a small “O” of surprise. 

I watch his reflection in the rearview mirror.  That’s exactly the reaction I was hoping for.  


Day 203
Even from a distance I can tell something isn’t right.  She walks with her head down, her shoulders curved into herself.  She walks like someone who needs a hug.   

“Hi!” I wave a good morning.  “Are you OK?” 

She looks up and shrugs.  Her eyes tell me no and the purple circles tell me she hasn’t slept.  Smiling seems a monumental effort. 

“No,” she admits.  “It’s been a rough couple of weeks.”  She tells me that her mother’s passed away and then she became sick herself.  A rough couple of weeks seem an understatement. 

I wish there was something I could say but there isn’t, so I listen.  Sometimes that’s the thing people need most.   

B. and I became friends years ago.  Every day, she’d walk her dog past our house.  Every day, the boys and I would stop and chat.  Over the weeks, months, years, we’ve lived in this house, our conversations changed from simple greetings to conversations. 

Friends come in all shapes and sizes.  Some you meet for coffee.  Some you meet on the sidewalk. 

I drop off a sympathy card and flowers at her door later that afternoon.  It occurs to me that in all these years I’ve never stepped foot on her front porch.  Maybe our friendship’s stretching to include more of ourselves.  

All School Work Day

Day 202
Grandpa arrived last night.  After a good night's rest, we immediately put him to work.   

Sweating in the Midwestern sun, he’s a good sport at the all-school work day.  The boys’ classes overlap so we jump in and help out with each of the grades. 

Montgomery Elementary has three rules: Respect Yourself.  Respect Others.  Respect Your Environment.  Hundreds of grade school worker bees buzz around carrying shovels and pulling weeds.  They’re learning this last rule by living it.  It’s a great lesson.    

F’s first grade class marches single file like little ants heading to a picnic. Instead of potato salad and sandwiches, their treat is an island so full of weeds that it resembles grass.  Spiky, weedy grass.  

Grandpa looses the soil to break up the roots and the kids happily grab at the leaves, each trying to out do each other with fistfuls of weeds. 

“Look at this!” one boy yells, waving a four-inch root. 

“Eww!” a gaggle of girls respond before bursting into a cloud of giggles. 

It’s tough work.  We stop for a water break but other than that, it’s non-stop weed pulling.  No one complains until they’re told their time in the garden is over. 

The third graders arrive and leaders direct them towards a set of brooms.  The group sweeps the sidewalks clean. 

“We saved the best job for last!” says Mr. M. who’s been co-leading the days’ efforts when he sees A.’s class.

Kindergarteners pair off. The teams of two struggle under the weight of the watering can.    
Water splashes out and creates patterns on the ground. 

“That one looks like a butterfly,” one says. 

“This one looks like we spilled water,” A. answers.  

Monday, May 7, 2012

Switching Teams

Day 201
With four players, the Falcons don’t have enough to field a team. 

Then, our coach does something that I hope the kids remember: he gives them a handful of our players to play the match.  He knows teaching the kids the fundamentals of lacrosse and ensuring that everyone gets a chance to play wins out over who ends the game with the highest score.    

Good sportsmanship is made not born. 

We have to teach our kids to be good, kind winners and gracious losers.  Teach.  If you disagree, I challenge you to find the parent of the child throwing a tantrum on the field.  Dollars to donuts, the parent’s face is scrunched up in an angry scowl cursing at the ref.

That’s why Chaz and I try our hardest to be good sports when we watch the boys play. 

Sure, we cheer for our kids.  Scream excitedly if they score.  High-five them when they run off the field.  We also cheer for standout performances on the other team.  At this age, it isn’t about winning (or shouldn’t be).  It’s about nurturing a love of the game, learning to be a good sport and figuring out how to work as a team.

“Look,” I point towards the field, “F’s playing for the other team.” 

He is.  And he’s giving it 100-percent. 

“That’s the best I’ve seen him play,” Chaz says.   

Way to go, F.  Way to go.    

Thursday, May 3, 2012


Day 200
My neighbor calls and offers some flowers for the butterfly garden.  The boys and I wheel over a wagon to dig them up.  They want to stay and play with her kids but hustle them along.  I want to head to the school and plant everything tonight.   

 “Now?”  Chaz asks, eyes gazing at the darkening sky, when I tell him we won't be long.    
“I want to get these in the ground so they’ll get a good soaking,” I say shooing the boys into the car.  "This," I say waving my arms to indicate the weather, "is perfect."    

The rain starts as soon as we begin to dig.  “It’s just water,” I say.  “We’re fine!  It’s like swimming standing up!”  This doesn't even make sense to me as I say it.  Who swims in their clothes?

Thunder cracks in the distance and a flash of lightening follows. 

“In the car!  Lightening!”  I shout and the boys race to the car and toss themselves in. 

The skies have opened up.  Sheets of rain obscure anything more than five feet in front of one's face.  Did they forecast a typhoon? 

“Lightening, Mom!” F. yells from the car as another bolt streaks across the sky.    

I’m so close to finishing.  I can’t stop.  

I also don’t want to be standing in a lightening storm holding a metal shovel. 

Dig.  Plant.  Dig.  Plant.  Dig.  Plant. 



Dreamy Gardener

Day 199
I send out emails and post a plea on Facebook in search of plants for the butterfly garden.  I’ll try and keep to the plan drawn up by the nursery but with most things on a shoestring, the project will take a lot of begging and borrowing. 

A mom from the boys’ school emails me that she has a large butterfly bush we can have.  Perfect, I say.  Another email pings into my inbox.  The Discovery Garden committee gives $50 towards the project.  See what happens if you ask for help?  People always come through. 

F., A. and I browse a discount nursery.  We find plump pots of lavender and a healthy hibiscus. 

It’s time to get dirty.  The boys lose interest quickly in the actual digging (but not the dirt) and cheer when I tell them to run and play in the gated kindergarten playground adjacent to the garden.  If only they listened that well at home.  They are through the gate and screaming wildly within seconds.  Lucky lopes alongside the boys.    

I step back to access our progress.  It’s getting there.  In my mind, I flash forward to next spring when the plants will fill the space. 

Dreamers make the best gardeners.  You have to see the potential of something you can’t see.  You have to trust that love (and water) will make a tiny sprout grow into something beautiful and strong.  You have to know that weeds can’t kill a plant if you take care of them and remove the damaging roots.    

On second thought, dreamers make the best people.    

Everything's Coming Up Roses

Day 198
If I could dream up a perfect kindergarten teacher for my kids it would be Mrs. H.  Lucky for me two of my three boys happily sat on her carpet and listened to her sing about chicken soup and springtime.

She has this way of bewitching the kids that fascinates me.  She talks in a whispery voice so low at times you need to lean in to hear.  She never raises her voice but still manages to guide children to make good choices.    

Every morning I send A. on the bus confident he will have a wonderful day. 

My youngest graduates to first grade in less than a month.  Gulp.  First grade.  It’s a touchpoint in a parent’s life to have one’s “baby” more on with the “big” kids.  Ready or not, it’s coming.  But no more kindergarten means no more Mrs. H.  I can hardly stand it. 

Her room mother for the past two years, I want to do something special with the patch of dirt near the kindergarten playground.  An unused 20 X 5 foot patch of dirt, it’s got potential.  I’ve heard Mrs. H. mention on more than one occasion her desire for a butterfly garden. 

It’s a perfect day to start that project.    

Maybe it’s my training and years working as a reporter, but if I don’t know what I’m doing, I go to an expert.  The boys and I visit Natorps, a local gardening center, where a very helpful and knowledgeable staffer sketches out a plan.  It’s full of fragrant lavender and bright-colored hibiscus.  Perennial geraniums invite butterflies to visit.  Sweet-smelling liatris encourage them to stay.  Butterfly bushes anchor the space.   

We don’t dig today, but we’ve got a plan.  If you have a plan, it’s a start.  

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gabbing About Whole Grain

Day 197
“It’s OK to have a cookie every once in awhile,” I confess, digressing from today’s lesson plan. I’m not going to lie to these kids.  If kids believe you’re feeding them a line, you’ve lost them. 
“The rest of the time,” I say, turning the conversation and back on track.  “It’s important to eat healthy.”

I join two other members of the Sycamore Wellness Committee to teach all second graders about whole grains.  The committee will visit each grade and share an age-appropriate lesson that kids will hopefully digest.      

“Today, we’re going to conduct a science experiment,” I start.  “Put out your hands like a scale.”  The kids stick their hands out palms up.  I place a loaf of white in one and a loaf of wheat in another. 

“What do you notice?” I ask. 

“One’s way heavier,” a child says. 

“That’s because of all the whole grain,” another says. 

We pass the loaves until each child feels the weight and density of each loaf.  They feel the crusts.  Touch and prod.   

“Now,” I say Vanna White-ing a piece of white and wheat bread.  “Using your eyes, what can you tell me?” 

“One is white?”

“Anything else?” 

“I can see the seeds in this one.”   

“Whole grain,” another cuts in.  We talk about the three parts of the grain and how eating all parts is better for your body than eating foods made with refined grains, flour with natural nutrients removed and enhanced with added vitamins.   

“Final exam!”  I say.  “Close your eyes.”

The kids squint their eyes shut and put out their hands.  “I want you to show me that you can make healthy choices with your eyes closed.” 

“This one,” a kid says confidently after touching each piece. 

Choosing healthy is that easy.